I can’t believe it’s been nine years since I went to India. One morning, out of the blue, I woke up and decided I was going and started planning a trip. Although sometimes I wonder just how “out of the blue” it was.
My mom had died about 10 months before and the last few years of her life weren’t easy on either of us. She never looked sick, she never
lost her spirit, her love of life, her energy or her sense of humour, but there were numerous visits
to doctors, numerous nights spent in emergency, not quite a year of kidney dialysis and a medical file that was more than a foot thick.
It definitely took its toll, especially as I was working full time back then, running a small agency, yet determined to be with her every step of the way, at every appointment, for every test, for all the results, and by her bedside during the many, many all-nighters in the hospital — whatever, wherever, whenever she needed me. And, needless to say, work pressures were enormous as well.
While I didn’t realize it at the time — it’s amazing the strength we can call upon when we need it — when it was over it hit me. I was mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Totally drained.
My life had been turned on its ear when my mother became so ill, and now it was being turned on its ear again. It was a turning point for me and, although it hadn’t yet hit me, I was on the cusp of making some significant decisions.
Seekers of answers to so many of life’s questions have always been drawn to India and reflecting back on that particular time of my life, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s why I suddenly decided to go. And, in case you’re wondering, it didn’t disappoint. It was just what the doctor ordered.
There are dozens and dozens and dozens of wonderful memories I can share — and I will — but the red string is one of my favourites. We were at the mid-point of our trip and had just arrived in Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India.
Our rooms were not ready when we arrived at the hotel, so we were asked to sit and wait in the lobby, where we were served tea. This forced rest was not unwelcome.
Suddenly I became aware of my surroundings and noticed Tibetan monks everywhere. Sitting, standing, chatting, in groups, alone, there was a constant stream of them coming and going. Curious, I asked our travel agent, who had come on the trip with us, what was going on.
She disappeared briefly and came back several minutes later with a big smile on her face. The Dalai Lama was there and would be teaching the next day, a couple of hours away from where we were. She said she’d try to get us in, if we were interested.
Of course the answer was “yes.” We could hardly contain our excitement. There was a lot we had to do, for security purposes, but it was worth the rushing around. The next morning, along with thousands and thousands and thousands of others, more than 25,000 in all, we made the pilgrimage. The red strings were tied around our left wrists at the gates, just before we entered.
In case you’re wondering, for Buddhists, the red string is a reminder to the wearer to show compassion to all. All I can think of is, wouldn’t it be perfect if we could wrap the globe with a red string right now?
We didn’t get to meet the Dalai Lama — that would have required more intensive security paperwork for which there was no time — but still we were there, in his presence. It was thrilling, wonderful, meaningful and memorable.
One of those beautiful, serendipitous moments that can turn an ordinary day into something special. One of those beautiful, serendipitous moments we replay over and over again, with each time bringing immense pleasure. One of those beautiful, serendipitous moments that brings with it not only a memory, but a memory with a message.